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Baseball Highlights: 2045» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Baseball Highlights 2045 -- A Preview / Appreciation rss

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Tom Lehmann
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As a game designer, I believe sports games where players manage teams over some portion of a season, drafting new players in reaction to what the other managers do, are hard to design.

If the season is too short, your draft picks don't have enough time to matter. If individual matches lack interesting choices, then your picks don't feel properly integrated with the back and forth nature of a sports contest. If a match is too detailed, then playing any portion of a season turns into a huge time commitment.

Enter Baseball Highlights 2045 by Mike Fitzgerald, where Mike has cleverly addressed these issues. Instead of slavishly simulating baseball games, each game is a quick, 5 minute contest where both players, alternating back and forth, play 6 cards, reacting to each other.

Each card represents a single player's "highlights" during a game. So, one player's card might "threaten" Single, Single, Double, representing that player's potential hit output in a game.

This brings us to Mike's next clever idea, namely that cards can have two game effects, an immediate effect that takes place when the card is played and a threatened effect that may -- or may not -- take place after the opponent plays, depending on what the opponent's next card does.

For example, in response to the card above, an opponent might play a card that "gloves" (cancels) 1 hit, choosing to cancel the double and letting the two singles occur, while, in turn, threatening a triple. Or, a pitcher's immediate effect might be to strike out the first player -- canceling all the threatened hits -- but threatening nothing in return (a purely defensive card).

Some cards have no immediate effects, they just threaten hits. If both players play lots of them, a match turns into a hitting contest -- who can score the most? If players play mostly defensive cards, with lots of double play, glove, and strike out immediate effects, a game becomes a pitching and fielding duel.

I love the way this system elegantly captures the back and forth feel of a baseball game while individual games can also have very different feels, depending on what players are drawn and played.

After each of these "mini-games", players draft new players, using the total draft values (0-4) printed on each of their cards. 6 new players are on offer at a time, with costs ranging from 4-10. A player with a draft total of 9 could either draft two cards with costs 4 and 5 or a single higher cost card.

For each player you draft, you send one of the 6 cards you just played to the "minor leagues", out of the game. You then place the new cards you drafted on top of your draw pile -- so they will be in the next game -- while putting the other cards you played (and kept) in your discard pile. You then draw 6 cards and start the next game.

Players begin with a roster of 15 "basic" cards, which they steadily improve by drafting as they play out a season, reshuffling their discard piles as needed to draw cards for more games.

Thematically, this game is set in a future where Baseball has been "jazzed up" by adding Robots -- literally hitting machines -- and Cyborgs -- typically the best pitchers -- to the few unmodified "Naturals" who can still compete with them. A player's type matters for Pitchers' Strikeout effects, which each work only versus one type of player.

Mats are provided with tracks to mark runs scored and games won, plus a baseball diamond to manage your runners on base, using colored cubes that indicate a player's speed: Slow, Average, or Fast.

Speed affects play in various ways. Slow players don't score from second on a single and can't Steal bases; Average players do this; while Fast players also advance an extra base on every hit (if possible) and avoid Double Plays.

Players with a pinch-hit symbol can be discarded and replaced during a game by either a card you place on your mat's On Deck spot before the game (drawing another card to replace it in your hand) or by "pot-luck", whichever card that is on top of your deck (and unknown to you).

Having pinch-hit capability is quite useful in teams built around pitching, where a given strike-out artist may be useless if your opponent doesn't play a card of the type that the pitcher is good against. 

If the mix of 6 cards that you drew just isn't working against your opponent, sometimes pinch hitting blind from the top of the deck may be your only way to possibly salvage a win.

Having the Home Field Advantage means you play the final card in a game -- which your opponent usually can't affect (since they have no more plays). Saving a player who threatens a Home Run to bat last (clean up) when you have the home field advantage can be huge, depending on how many runners you have on base.

To reduce this effect, if the visiting team still has a card in their on-deck circle (so that any pinch hitting they did earlier this game was from the top of their deck) and a player with a pinch-hit symbol (that they didn't use) among their played cards, they can make a "defensive save", playing their On Deck card for its defensive effect (pick off, double-play, glove, or strike out) before the home team's final threatened hits take place. (The rest of the defensive save's card is ignored.)

This adds an interesting option for the visiting team at the cost of reducing its potential pinch hitting for offense (by not placing a card that threatens lots of hits in its On Deck circle).

Since immediate effects affect either runners or threatened hits, the visiting team also has the disadvantage that its first play's immediate effect is useless.

This is addressed by the Lead Off immediate effect, which is a bonus hit that occurs immediately, but only if it is the first card played by a team in a game.

If you know you will be the visiting team in the World Series, drafting a couple of players with Lead Off powers can help you gain an offensive edge over your opponent.

The home team can also play a Lead Off power for its first play, but this is at the cost of not playing a defensive immediate effect against the visiting team's initial threatened hits, so Lead Off powers are not as useful for the home team.

Overall, Home Team advantage is still important, but Defensive Plays and Lead Off effects reduce it just enough so that it doesn't dominate play.

The game comes with several play formats. The standard format is to play a short season of just 3 games, to determine home field advantage for the following World Series, which is best of 7 games (2 home, 3 away, 2 home). At roughly 5 minutes per "mini-game", plus drafting, experienced players can play this format of 7-10 games in under an hour.

While the starting rosters are a bit bland, this format allows players to learn the system and see how dramatically drafting affects future games.

Between threatened hits, immediate effects, player type, future draft value, speed, pinch-hit capability, and cost, cards vary tremendously.

Do you draft for the next game or for the future? Do you build a team around pure hit production, home runs, strike-outs, or a mix of offensive and defensive abilities (to give you lots of options during games)?

If your opponent drafts a lot of Robots, do you draft Robots -- to fight massive hit production with your own hit production, Cyborgs to strike 'em out, or defensive players to remove them from the base paths with Pick Offs and Double Plays?

One issue I encountered during testing is that players didn't want to go back to playing with just the starting rosters. Mike has addressed this by adding a pre-season option for experienced players -- three rounds of just drafting -- before starting the regular mini-season and World Series format. This allows experienced players to start shaping their teams and responding to each other's draft choices before beginning play.

Baseball purists may decry Mike's futuristic setting, but I think Mike has done a marvelous job capturing baseball flavor, in both the card powers and his player names, such as Catfish Carlton, Mickey Maris, or Barry Sosa.

I believe Mike's immediate/threaten card system is very innovative and will show up in other games. I certainly know I'm thinking about how to use it in other settings!

If you have any interest in baseball and like card drafting and deck building, then check out Baseball Highlights 2045. It's a winner. Play Ball!

(Preview based on a prototype loaned to me after I played the game at BGGCon 2013.)
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Dan Massek
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Nice review. It comes out today on Kickstarter I believe. Hoping there is a reasonably priced 2 pack level so I can get one for myself and one for my baseball loving nephews.
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William Tanner
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Excellent review!

I am certainly interested in this game as I absolutely love baseball. I haven't really seen a game that could represent it well and although this is set in the future, the mechanic sounds perfect for baseball! Can't wait to get a look at this.
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The Inquisitive Meeple
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william6128 wrote:
Excellent review!

I am certainly interested in this game as I absolutely love baseball. I haven't really seen a game that could represent it well and although this is set in the future, the mechanic sounds perfect for baseball! Can't wait to get a look at this.


besides the kickstarter. you can see the rules here on geek in the files section. And later today on geek I will be posting an in-depth interview with Mike F. about baseball 2045. So there should be a good amount of info out there, for you to decide.
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fightcitymayor
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Tom Lehmann wrote:
Baseball purists may decry Mike's futuristic setting, but I think Mike has done a marvelous job capturing baseball flavor, in both the card powers and his player names, such as Catfish Carlton, Mickey Maris, or Barry Sosa.
I am the afore-mentioned "baseball purist" and I have misgivings that this game doesn't have enough actual baseball in it. I'm not expecting Strat-O-Matic, but I do expect more actual baseball in a baseball-related game.

Having 2 different hit results, but then defaulting to the other player to be able to "cancel" them after the fact is very "game-y". It might make for an interactive game experience, but that isn't baseball. Picking a random card from the top of the deck might help your gaming cause, but it isn't "pinch-hitting." Saving a monster hitter as your hole-card for use specifically on the last play might work as a game mechanic, but would never happen in actual baseball (why wouldn't you have your best hitter playing the whole time?) It feels to me like a loose baseball theme shoehorned into another deckbuilding game.

And even with the names, I see the ha-ha factor of "Mickey Maris" or "Catfish Carlton," but it seems like another lost opportunity to actually inject real baseball flavor: Mickey Mantle had his own attributes as a player, as did Catfish Hunter and the others that the names are based on. Why not keep the flavor of the original players (maybe with soundalike names that clue people in on the real deal,) instead of just mashing 2 famous names together for no other purpose?

And a lot of this deckbuilding & "winning highlights" has been done before in FFG's Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game which suffered from the same shortcomings: It was certainly a playable game, but deviated so widely from the source material (Blood Bowl) that it just felt like random deckbuilding mechanics with a coat of Blood Bowl paint. I get the same feeling when I see this game being played. Sure, there are elements of baseball in there, but it is so far abstracted from the actual game that it might as well be just a Knizia type coat of theme paint.

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The Inquisitive Meeple
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fightcitymayor wrote:

Having 2 different hit results, but then defaulting to the other player to be able to "cancel" them after the fact is very "game-y". It might make for an interactive game experience, but that isn't baseball. Picking a random card from the top of the deck might help your gaming cause, but it isn't "pinch-hitting." Saving a monster hitter as your hole-card for use specifically on the last play might work as a game mechanic, but would never happen in actual baseball (why wouldn't you have your best hitter playing the whole time?) It feels to me like a loose baseball theme shoehorned into another deckbuilding game.

And even with the names, I see the ha-ha factor of "Mickey Maris" or "Catfish Carlton," but it seems like another lost opportunity to actually inject real baseball flavor: Mickey Mantle had his own attributes as a player, as did Catfish Hunter and the others that the names are based on. Why not keep the flavor of the original players (maybe with soundalike names that clue people in on the real deal,) instead of just mashing 2 famous names together for no other purpose?

And a lot of this deckbuilding & "winning highlights" has been done before in FFG's Blood Bowl: Team Manager – The Card Game which suffered from the same shortcomings: It was certainly a playable game, but deviated so widely from the source material (Blood Bowl) that it just felt like random deckbuilding mechanics with a coat of Blood Bowl paint. I get the same feeling when I see this game being played. Sure, there are elements of baseball in there, but it is so far abstracted from the actual game that it might as well be just a Knizia type coat of theme paint.



The theme came first - I believe the idea was to make a baseball game that anyone could play and still have fun, without being bogged down with stats or being a simulation.
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Huzonfirst
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I understand where you're coming from, Mayor, but the counterexample I'm thinking of is StreetSoccer. This is a very simple game, but I find it manages to capture the feel of soccer better than more detailed simulations. My hope is that Mike's game will do the same thing for baseball.

I played tons of baseball simulations when I was a teenager. I have no desire to play them any more. They do a fine job of reflecting what happens in a baseball contest, but as games, they are sorely lacking. The results are much more about how the dice come up than what strategies you employ. After reading Tom's review, it seems as if Baseball Highlights 2045 has a great chance to give me enough baseball flavor to keep me happy, while also providing a great game experience.
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The Inquisitive Meeple
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Larry Levy wrote:
I understand where you're coming from, Mayor, but the counterexample I'm thinking of is StreetSoccer. This is a very simple game, but I find it manages to capture the feel of soccer better than more detailed simulations. My hope is that Mike's game will do the same thing for baseball.

I played tons of baseball simulations when I was a teenager. I have no desire to play them any more. They do a fine job of reflecting what happens in a baseball contest, but as games, they are sorely lacking. The results are much more about how the dice come up than what strategies you employ. After reading Tom's review, it seems as if Baseball Highlights 2045 has a great chance to give me enough baseball flavor to keep me happy, while also providing a great game experience.


I think you nailed it - I think that was the idea to make a game that has the "feel" of baseball, without being too bogged down
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Ben R
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Isn't the KS live today, am I missing something?
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The Inquisitive Meeple
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BentlyCash wrote:
Isn't the KS live today, am I missing something?


It is - its about a hour and half away or so - before it is live.
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fightcitymayor
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Larry Levy wrote:
After reading Tom's review, it seems as if Baseball Highlights 2045 has a great chance to give me enough baseball flavor to keep me happy, while also providing a great game experience.
I don't disagree with you there, there certainly might be a good game here. I can see people being interested & the KS doing well, regardless of what I consider to be some tenuous connections to the game itself.

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Tom Lehmann
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fightcitymayor wrote:
Having 2 different hit results, but then defaulting to the other player to be able to "cancel" them after the fact is very "game-y".

I agree it's not baseball the *simulation*, but an *abstraction* of the game. If you think of cards that threaten single, single, double (with a fast runner) or home run, home run (with a slow runner) as summaries of two different players' contributions to an entire game (a consistent base hitter vs a very good power hitter) and a defensive player being able to cancel one of these hits, then the net result (single, single, vs one home run) captures the essential difference between these two types of players. Depending on your exact situation (how many runners you have on base), you might well prefer one player over the other.

Quote:
Picking a random card from the top of the deck might help your gaming cause, but it isn't "pinch-hitting."

You can put a specific player in your On Deck circle and pinch hit that player knowingly, not randomly.

But, I agree, this is not the game for you. You want more of a simulation than this game is.

Quote:
Sure, there are elements of baseball in there, but it is so far abstracted from the actual game that it might as well be just a Knizia type coat of theme paint.

We'll have to agree to disagree. Abstraction is tricky. One player's successful abstraction that captures the "feel" of a situation might completely fail for another player.

In this case, I feel that the game's central abstraction -- presenting a player's contributions over an entire game and letting the opponent counter some of them -- works for me and feels very thematic. It doesn't work for you. People's mileage will vary on this.

Similarly, the drafting mechanism combined with the tension between particular immediate effects vs threatened hits on each card manages to capture *for me* the feel of building a team based on speed vs power vs pitching vs fielding vs hit production nicely. Again, players' mileage will vary on this.
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Phillip Millman
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I just checked. It isn't live on KS yet.
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Yeah I have been watching for it as well - I know they are working on it.
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Bruce Voge III
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I hope Baseball is finally getting its 1st & Goal. A fun abstracted game, that is easy to pick up and play.

The one thing I find off putting is the graphic feel of the game. The game is supposed to take place in the future, but all the players have this odd, almost steampunk look to them. The robot they have shown us is clearly a steampunk robot, weather vane and all. I would love to have seen some futuristic design brought in, or even better try to get the guys from Brandiose that do a lot of design work for the Minor Leagues to come in and help. Unless I did not realize this is what baseball in the 1956 season would have looked like with Cyborgs, and that IS the story, and I missed it.

I hope to see a great game here above all, but the general looks of the game are spooking me a little.

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Mark Nicosia
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Looks nice. I don't mind the abstractness.... prefer it to an actual sim, I think.

My only nit-pick is the robots... I wish it was just people, set in current day or even olden day. The robots kind of ruin it for me. Oh well... good chance I'll back it anyway.

Hey, maybe an 'add-on' pack can be replacement cards for the robots that are actually people.
 
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Just heard from my eagle games contact - try are estimating between 5-5:30 est tonight. Try are working on some finishing touches
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Ralph H. Anderson
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It is now LIVE!!!!
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DragonCat wrote:
It is now LIVE!!!!

Handy dandy link . . .
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dmassek wrote:
Nice review. It comes out today on Kickstarter I believe. Hoping there is a reasonably priced 2 pack level so I can get one for myself and one for my baseball loving nephews.


Was just hoping for a lower priced 1 pack ... $35 for 120 cards seems steep to me ... looks like a fun game though!
 
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Dan Massek
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I agree it's a bit of a high price. If the stretch goals are hit to add all the additional cards it a decent value, but think they would have done better to add some more cards to base set and do half as many stretch goals.
 
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Plus with a $40 msrp, that means it will be like $27.50 online once it comes out, and there are no exclusives. This might be a "buy day one" game, but maybe not a Kickstarter.

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BrucecO wrote:
Plus with a $40 msrp, that means it will be like $27.50 online once it comes out, and there are no exclusives. This might be a "buy day one" game, but maybe not a Kickstarter.



It may be hard to hunt down the 5 small Expansions later on though, even if they are not exclusive.
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Ralph H. Anderson
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Here is a list of the components:

Components

(1) Rulebook

(4) 15-Card Starting Decks
San Francisco
Los Angeles
Boston
New York

(1) 60-Card Free Agent Deck

(4) Player Stadium Mats (2-sided for both right and left handed players)

(4) Player Aid Placards

Stadium Components

(4) Sets of Wood Cubes (Runners) in each of 3 colors (White, Blue, Red)
(4) Runs Scored Markers
(4) Games Won Markers
(2) Home Field Markers

As you can see, it is a bit more than just 120 cards and compared to comparable game components out there is quite reasonably priced in IMHO. And based on how well we do reaching the Stretch Goals, there are planned component upgrades as well.

By the way, although the game is primarily set up for 2-player competition, the rules include the ability for 3-player Hot Pepper games and tournament play with 4 players right out of the box. For larger number of players you will need to have a second copy (which provides for another 4 players) or more.

Ralph
for Eagle-Gryphon Games
Corrected 160 cards to 120 cards.
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Sanders wrote:
BrucecO wrote:
Plus with a $40 msrp, that means it will be like $27.50 online once it comes out, and there are no exclusives. This might be a "buy day one" game, but maybe not a Kickstarter.



It may be hard to hunt down the 5 small Expansions later on though, even if they are not exclusive.


I have a feeling those are going to be tossed in the box. Its makes no sense for Eagle to box those up individually. It seems those stretch goals are to add those to every copy of the game.
 
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